Michal Neuvirth unfazed by playoff stage
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau may have the reputation of being Dr. Hook when it comes to playoff goaltending, but a) don't expect that to continue, and b) have any effect on rookie netminder Michal Neuvirth.
Boudreau was quick to yank veteran goaltender Jose Theodore during the past two postseasons, but he spoke glowingly about Neuvirth, who will start Game 1 of the Capitals' first-round playoff series against the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
"He hasn't been through this," Boudreau said Tuesday, gesturing at the throngs of media gathered around him at the team's practice facility. "But he's been through championship series and everything else. He's ready."
Neuvirth outplayed Semyon Varlamov, the youngster who took over for Theodore last postseason and in 2009, and ended up third among all rookie netminders with 27 wins. His success follows a remarkable run at the AHL level, where he guided the Caps' minor-league affiliate to eight straight playoff series victories en route to back-to-back Calder Cup championships.
"I don't have to say anything to him. As a matter of fact, I've tried not to say anything to him for fear that it would get him wound up or nervous or whatever," Boudreau said. "He does what he does. He's played really big in big games for us and we've got a lot of belief in him."
During training camp, we talked with Neuvirth about his first taste of the NHL, when he was invited to the Caps' post-draft workout in 2006 only to show up without his goaltending gear. He agreed Tuesday it seems as though that was a long time ago.
"I can't believe the NHL playoffs are coming up," Neuvirth told ESPN.com. "It's another great chance, another great opportunity. Obviously, the NHL playoffs are going to be a different story."
As for the revolving door around the Caps' goal the past couple of postseasons, Neuvirth seemed nonplussed.
"Obviously I know what happened the last couple of years," he said. "I'm just going to try and do my job, minute by minute, second by second."